Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Sports Picks of 2007 - 29th August

Womans 400m Final : Ohuruogu claims gold for Britain

Christine Ohuruogu claimed Britain's first gold medal at the World Championships in Japan with a stunning victory in the women's 400m. Fellow Briton Nicola Sanders won silver while Jamaican Novlene Williams, who led for most of the race, came third. Ohuruogu, whose one-year ban for missing three out-of-competition tests expired earlier this month, looked out of contention on the back straight. But the 23-year-old timed her run to perfection to win in 49.61 seconds

First of all, can I say that it is disappointing that Scotland’s most prominent athlete, Lee McConnell (who participates in this event), has not pushed on and got herself into finals and possibly medal positions. Thanks.

This column though is about Christine Ohuruogu, and in a way the humbug that her win has uncovered. Firstly, I don’t know if she takes performance enhancing drugs, therefore im not going to accuse her of doing so. Suspicions are raised though if an athlete misses not just one or two, but three out of competition tests. The only other sportsperson I can think of that missed drug testing was the England defender Rio Ferdenand. In that case football got a hard time for banning him for only 6 months. Sure he missed the last European Championships, but still six months! Ohuruogu’s original punishment was a year ban from the athletics authorities, and the mandatory life ban from representing Britain at the Olympics, this ban is the same sentence as those found guilty of using performance enhancing drugs.

While this was harsh, I felt that this was maybe fair, though I can’t say for certain given that we don’t know of the circumstances surrounding the missed tests. What I don’t think should have happened is that the BOA punishment should be dropped, which is what happened at the end of November. I think that this sends out mixed messages to athletes, taking performance enhancing drugs, who are actively trying to evade detection. The BOA, have been shown to be not so hard-line on drug-taking as the may think that they are. If there are mitigating circumstances, this should have had an effect on the sentence, not meant the removal of it. I feel that this tarnishes the British reputation for being hard-line on substance abuse.

Unfortunately, those drugs tests will mean that there will be an element of suspicion surrounding her. This is a great pity because Christine Ohuruogu quite clearly is (at the moment) the only cast iron medal prospect that we have in British athletics. This 400 metres win, as well as giving some hope for the future of British athletics, was one of the athletics highlights of the decade, and there aren’t very many of those.

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